2010-01-15 / Columnists

Notes from the High C’s

Rockaway Music and Arts Council
by Sharon Gabriel

Happy New Year to all. With the exception of this freezzzzzzzzzzing weather, I hope everyone’s year has started out on a high note. Oh! Ha, Ha, there we go with the music again. In any event, we are working our numb fingers to the bone on our programs for the new season but once again, the National Park Service is in the way, and is preventing us at the present moment from scheduling any concerts or the Fall Festival and it’s all about money.

In order for us to do the festival last year, the park wanted a “deposit” against any costs they incurred and we would receive a refund after everything was added up. Well as of this date, four months after the festival, we have not heard word one from them and have continually been in contact. A deposit is paid every year but this year the amount was exorbitant and if some of that money is not forthcoming from the Park Service we may not be having a program this year. Additionally, because of the economy, grants are drying up and they cover a good part of our costs. We will keep on working with the hope that things will work themselves out. I saw in The Wave last week that we are not the only group that was pushed out of Fort Tilden. The National Park Service is now trying to evict the post office after 70 years and now wants to charge rent for the property. Do you see something wrong with this picture? While the US Postal Service is technically not an arm of the government, (there’s no other business you can buy US stamps from) still it’s like taking from Peter to pay Paul. You take it from one hand and put it in the other. The National Park Service is trying to make money any way it can and in doing so is alienating a whole community. I don’t know what they are thinking other than they are getting their instructions from Washington regarding the use of national parks, and to charge whatever they can, and nothing is looked at on an individual basis.

So now they have thrown the RMAC out of Fott Tilden and are after the Post Office to move and who will be next? Someone in Washington or somewhere in the Interior Department has no concept of what Fort Tilden and Riis Park are like. As I have said many times, they are not the Grand Canyon or Yosemite or the Grand Tetons. Although it doesn’t have the grandeur of these parks, it does have dunes, a pond, a marine forest, a beautiful beach, biking and walking areas, interesting history, and a beautiful venue for cultural activities. But it’s useless property if the community can’t use it and obviously the government doesn’t want us to use it unless we pay. Well, I have a big notice for our government,

WE DO PAY for it with our taxes. They pay for the park and the salaries that are paid and so, to be told we can’t use the park unless we pay is laughable. It’s also ironic since RMAC brings more people to the park for our concerts and festival than any other organization. We have asked our senators in Washington for some help in at least reducing fees, but they have not paid attention to our request. I, for one, am extremely irate.

Maybe we should have a grassroots campaign and write letters to the Interior Department to let them know that there are honest, hardworking citizens here in Rockaway and surrounding communities who don’t want to be pushed around anymore. Do something for your citizens for a change. We have billions and billions to give away on stimulus packages to everybody and his brother, well, give a few small millions to your park here in Rockaway for the use of our community. I feel better already, and now it’s on to the next project. We’re looking into our Spring Museum Trip and it could very well be “New York, New York, It’s A Wonderful Town”, that’s a small clue.

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